When it comes to color, blue and purple are next to each other on the color wheel. Blue is a primary color and purple is a secondary color made by mixing blue with red. This means that the halfway point between blue and purple is a tertiary color made by mixing blue with just a touch of red to push it toward purple. But what exactly is that halfway color called? Let’s take a closer look at the colors between blue and purple to find the answer.
The Color Wheel
The color wheel is a useful tool for understanding how colors relate to each other. It arranges colors in a circle based on their hue or base color. The primary colors – red, yellow, and blue – make up the three points of the color wheel. Mixing two primary colors makes the secondary colors – orange, green, and purple.
Tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it on the wheel. For example, red mixed with purple makes red-violet, a tertiary color halfway between the two.
Looking at the color wheel, blue and purple are next to each other between the primary blue and the secondary purple. So the halfway point between them is a blue-leaning tertiary color made with blue plus a touch of purple’s other component color, red.
The Color Between Blue and Purple
When you mix just a small amount of red into blue, you get the tertiary color blue-violet, sometimes just called violet. This bright purple-toned blue sits right between blue and purple on the color wheel.
While violet is the technical name for this color, another term for it is indigo. Indigo dye has historically been produced by plants and used to color fabric a vivid blue-violet shade.
So while violet and indigo can refer to slightly different shades, they are essentially names for the tertiary color halfway between blue and purple.
Comparing Violet, Indigo, and Purple
Looking closely at violet, indigo, and purple can help illustrate the subtle differences between these overlapping terms:
|Violet||Blue-violet||Most purple-blue blend, leaning slightly more blue|
|Indigo||Blue-violet||Slightly more blue than violet, vibrant blue-violet|
|Purple||Red-violet||Least blue, close to magenta|
As shown in the table, violet and indigo sit right between blue and purple. Violet leans just slightly more toward blue on the spectrum, while indigo has a very vivid blue-violet tone. Purple contains the least blue and is closer to magenta.
Comparing Violet, Indigo, and Blue
We can also compare violet and indigo to regular blue:
|Blue||Blue||No purple/red added, pure blue|
|Violet||Blue-violet||Small amount of red added, blue-leaning purple|
|Indigo||Blue-violet||Very vivid purple-blue|
This shows how blue contains no purple/red, while violet and indigo have increasing amounts added to push the color toward purple. But they still retain a strong blue component.
Defining Violet vs. Purple
Because violet and purple are so similar, they are sometimes used interchangeably when referring to shades of purple. However, when speaking precisely about color hues, there are a few key differences:
- Violet has a blue undertone, while purple has a red undertone
- Violet is lighter and brighter, while purple is darker and deeper
- Violet leans towards blue on the color wheel, purple leans toward red
- Violet has a higher amount of blue pigment, purple has more red
So while purple contains a good amount of blue by nature of being next to it on the wheel, violet specifically refers to the true halfway blend between the two colors.
Defining Indigo vs. Purple
Like violet, indigo also sits between blue and purple and has differences from true purple:
- Indigo is a vivid purple-blue, while purple is less vibrant
- Indigo has a strong blue tone, while purple tones are redder
- Indigo is named after the distinct dye color, purple is more generic
- Indigo appears in rainbows, purple does not
So indigo, as a more saturated bright blue-violet, deserves its own distinction from purple. Though purple can sometimes refer casually to bluer shades like indigo and violet.
Examples of Violet and Indigo
To get a sense of what violet and indigo look like, here are some real-world examples:
- Violets – These blue-purple flowers are the namesake inspiration for the color violet.
- Eggplant – The rich color of this vegetable is a vivid true violet.
- Grapes – Certain purple grapes can also exhibit a blue-violet color similar to violet.
- Blueberries – While blueberry-colored, some varieties trend toward an indigo shade.
- Pansies – These flowers and the colored pansy flower itself display indigo tones.
- Blue raspberry – This peculiar candy flavor is colored a vivid indigo hue.
- Denim – Classic blue jeans have an indigo dye origin story.
There are many shades of purple found in nature and manmade objects that exemplify the subtle differences between violet, indigo, and purple.
The Rainbow Colors
When Isaac Newton first defined the visible color spectrum, he identified seven distinct colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. So in the original conception of the rainbow, indigo and violet were seen as distinct.
Modern rainbows are often simplified to just list red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. So indigo has been phased out over time and purple has taken its place. But you can still find indigo retained in some rainbow representations.
Indigo Dye Origins
Indigo dye has an ancient origin story in India and Asia. Derived from certain plant sources, indigo was used to dye fabrics a deep blue-violet shade. The colorant molecule in indigo, called indigotin, provides a unique bright blue tone.
When indigo spread to Europe in the 16th century, it was the only way to dye fabrics blue – more expensive than other dyes. So indigo dyed clothing like denim jeans were highly valued. It remained the premier blue dye until synthetic blues were invented in the 1800s.
Why Include Indigo and Violet?
When Newton added indigo and violet to his early color spectrum model, he was likely influenced by the common knowledge of the indigo dye’s important role. Distinguishing it from plain blue was a deliberate choice.
Additionally, having seven total colors in the rainbow matched up with the seven notes of the musical scale. So the logic at the time justified giving indigo and violet their own distinct places even though they are close shades.
Mixing Violet and Indigo Paint
How can you mix up custom violet or indigo paint colors? Using blue as the base:
- Start with blue paint or dye
- Add a small amount of red – about 10-20% as much red as blue
- The more red added, the more purple the result
- A 80/20 or 90/10 blue to red ratio gives a nice blue-leaning violet
- Start with vivid blue – like phthalo or Prussian blue
- Add around 5-15% as much deep red or maroon
- Keeps a strongly blue appearance with purple undertone
- Higher red content starts becoming more purple
The specific paint colors and ratios can be adjusted to get your desired shade of violet or indigo. Adding white will lighten it into more of a lilac tone as well.
Violet and Indigo Pigments
Pigments are colored particles used in paint and dye that selectively absorb/reflect specific wavelengths of light. Here are some notable violet-indigo pigments:
- Dioxazine purple – Modern synthetic organic violet pigment used in artist paints
- Manganese violet – Inorganic pigment historically used in painting
- Indigo – Organic indigoids dye molecules that produce indigo color in solution
- Ultramarine – Inorganic compound that provides a violet-blue color
- Han purple – Early synthetic purple pigment made from barium copper silicate
These demonstrate the various chemical compounds that can produce colors in the violet-indigo range. Understanding pigments helps explain the original sources of these colors.
Light and Pigment Mixing
An interesting distinction to note is the difference between light and pigment mixing. Violet light is achieved by mixing blue and red light. But violet paint is mixed using blue and red paint pigments.
While paint mixing relies on reflectance and absorption, light mixing involves the additive blending of emitted wavelengths. This difference has an impact on resulting colors that is important to keep in mind.
So violet light and violet paint are similar colors with distinct mixing methods. The same applies to mixing indigo and other colors.
Violet and Indigo Hex Codes
Hex color codes provide a precise numerical definition of digital colors used on screens. Here are some hex values for shades of violet and indigo:
|Color Name||Hex Code|
These hex codes can be used for web design, digital art, coding, and other electronic applications requiring specific color values.
Using Violet and Indigo Together
Because violet and indigo are distinct but closely related, they actually work very well together aesthetically. Ways to pair them include:
- Light violet and dark indigo – High contrast
- Bright indigo and muted violet – Complementary vibrance
- Violet, indigo, and blue – Triadic color harmony
- Violet, indigo, and lilac – Monochromatic purple scheme
- Indigo and violet prints – Coordinated pattern mixing
From high contrast to low key harmonies, the nuances between violet and indigo open up many creative possibilities.
Psychology of Violet vs Indigo
Color psychology attributes various emotional impressions and meanings to different colors. Here is a comparison of violet and indigo symbolism:
- Associated with spirituality, mysticism, and magic
- Embodies compassion, intuition, dignity, and romance
- Considered calming, nostalgic, soothing, and charming
- Evokes intuition, inspiration, and inner vision
- Seen as wise, insightful, and perceptive
- Represents creative expression, meditation, and serenity
So while closely related, violet skews more mystical and romantic, while indigo is more creatively introspective.
In summary, the technical color halfway between blue and purple is violet. This brilliant blue-toned purple sits between the two on the color wheel. The closely related indigo is a more saturated vivid purple-blue.
While violet has historically represented spirituality, and indigo creativity, they remain similar in mood. Choosing one over the other for an application comes down to the desired balance of blue versus red undertones.
So the next time the age old question arises, hopefully the nuances between violet and indigo are now clearer. Though they overlap in places, each deserves its own distinct recognition.